Accra travel guide – What to do in Accra

The best places in Accra for shopping, art, culture and learning about Ghana’s rich history

Shopping

The Arts Centre/Centre for National Culture

This is less of a market and more of a bustling mini metropolis. Here you will find an array of stalls selling everything from wooden adinkra symbol carvings to an assortment of Kente-inspired clothing. As well as this you can find items ranging from serving bowls to fans and purses. One thing to be aware of when coming here is that you need to haggle – if you can it’s best to find a guide who knows the market well to take you around so that you can avoid paying astronomical prices. Expect to be approached and encouraged by every stall holder to look at their wares; some will sit and call you over whilst others will walk up to you with their t-shirts in tow. This is the best (and probably the cheapest) place to find souvenirs to take home for friends and family so make sure you make time to visit. Also be sure to bring cash as many vendors will not have card machines.

Global Mamas, Osu

If you are looking to do some socially conscious shopping, then look no further than Global Mamas. This shop is an NGO and sells everything from organic Fairtrade cotton batik clothing and household accessories to handmade earrings and Christmas decorations. A proportion of the sales of the store’s items are used to fund education programmes for the women (and their children) responsible for making all the goods on sale. This is another fantastic place to grab some souvenirs or do some shopping for yourself.

All Pure Nature, Osu

This store is a natural skincare lover’s dream. All the soaps and lotions in stock are made from natural ingredients and feature lots of ingredients which are unique to or are grown in Ghana. The shop is adorned with everything from moringa and baobab soap to pots of shea butter which have been lightly fragranced. I bought a couple of the soaps myself and I can honestly say I regret not buying more. They lather up wonderfully and leave your skin feeling beautifully soft. As well as a standalone store in Osu there is a slightly smaller All Pure Nature store inside Marina Mall.

The Shop Accra, Osu

This is probably the shop that stood out the most to me during my shopping spree in Accra. It is filled to the brim with artwork, clothing and accessories for those who want to buy trendy items which transition well from season to season. A lot of the items for sale are also handmade by craftsmen and women in Ghana. Some of the accessories I spotted would not look out of place in an Oliver Bonas or & Other Stories; these pieces instantly caught my eye! The shop also has an assortment of skincare, body care, homeware items, stationery and even a small café. It is truly a treasure trove of fantastic fashion that is both modern and traditionally Ghanaian at the same time.

Arts, History & Culture

The Kempinski Hotel and Gallery 1957

On the ground floor of the Kempinski Hotel in Accra is a fantastic free art gallery filled with works from internationally renowned Ghanaian artists. After wandering through the ever-changing exhibition head up to one of the many bars in the hotel, preferably the one by the pool that has a great view of the rest of Accra, for a cocktail and some freshly made plantain chips.

The name of the gallery is a reference to the year that Ghana became a country which was governed by its people and not by the British, its colonial oppressors since the nineteenth century.

Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum

This is a must-visit tourist destination in Ghana. Here you will find items that used to belong to Ghana’s first president and prime minister and the man who led the first African country to independence from its colonial oppressors in 1957. The museum within the mausoleum contains an abundance of information about his life as well as several photos of him with notable public figures from the past and present such as JFK, Queen Elizabeth II and Chairman Mao.

Aburi Gardens

It is said that Aburi Gardens was founded by a student of Kew Gardens in Richmond. Whilst these botanical gardens are not as large or as grand as Kew, they do hold an assortment of plant life. As is the case with a few of Ghana’s main tourist sites, these gardens were not particularly well maintained. Indeed, there were a few pieces of litter in and around all the beautiful trees and flowers. Greater maintenance is needed for sure, but it is still worth a visit.

Aburi also has a very cool and breezy microclimate and so if you need any respite from the hot and humid Accra weather a short trip to Aburi will help you cool off. Also – as we travelled up to the hills of Aburi our guide for the day showed us Bob Marley’s former home in Ghana.

Artists Alliance Gallery

If you are looking for artwork to decorate a house or authentic Kente cloth, look no further than the Artists Alliance Gallery. You will be able to find plenty of beautiful paintings and ornate large wood carvings for sale here. This large gallery even has a room dedicated to Kente where you can find out what each of the patters mean and choose your own hand woven authentic Ghanaian Kente cloth. I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures but rest assured this gallery is well worth a trip.

Jamestown

This historic part of Accra plays host to the Chale Wote Festival every year. Whilst trying to find my way to the Jamestown Café and other modern hipster places in Jamestown that I’d read about online, my sister, uncle and I were stopped near the lighthouse by a man who offered to give us a tour of the area. This is always something to be mindful about. Whilst people are very hospitable, looking like a tourist will always make people try and extract money out of you in some way shape or form. This is just as true in Ghana as it is in Brazil, South East Asia and quite frankly many tourist destinations around the world. I thought he might be able to take us to the modern part of Jamestown but he just took us on a short walk along the beach by the fishing boats and James Fort Prison.

We paid him 20 cedis for his time and we felt safe but the experience wasn’t anything to write home about. It was, however, interesting to see James Fort Prison. This was where Kwame Nkrumah was imprisoned shortly before becoming the first president and prime minister of Ghana.

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Free art in Istanbul: Street art in Karaköy and Cihangir

I wander through a few of the edgiest and colourful neighbourhoods in Istanbul and stumble along some incredible street art along the way.

Anybody who knows me well will tell you that Istanbul has been a bucket list holiday destination of mine since 2010. I became fascinated by Istanbul after learning about part of its history whilst watching Diarmaid McCulloch’s series, A History of Christianity. My interest in visiting Istanbul grew even more after I delved deeper into Istanbul’s history whilst I was studying Theology at university. I found Istanbul’s vast and varied history utterly fascinating and the more I learnt about it the more I wanted to visit. That, and my undying love of Turkish food, made me determined to one day make this dream a reality. My plans were somewhat delayed because of the political turmoil that Turkey has endured since 2011, however, given that this has dissipated somewhat in recent years I decided that 2018 would be the year that I visited Istanbul.

A few years ago, I started researching Istanbul and was shocked to discover that Istanbul had a very modern, young and funky side to it. The Karaköy and Cihangir neighbourhoods of Istanbul definitely embody this side of Istanbul. The former has a cluster of vintage boutiques, an abundance of coffee shops and streets lined with murals whilst the latter is leafier and slightly more family-oriented but is still incredibly fashionable, arty and effortlessly cool. If you are looking for great brunch options, hipster vibes and instagrammable street art in Istanbul, these are the areas that you should visit.

Here are a few pictures I took whilst strolling through both neighbourhoods.

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Cihangir

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Are there any other neighbourhoods in Istanbul that have amazing street art?

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Where to eat in Lisbon

Your guide for finding some of the best food that Lisbon has to offer

For the past few years Lisbon has been garnering a reputation as one of the best foodie capitals in Europe, and indeed the world. As a lover of food this is what initially made me interested in travelling to Lisbon. After watching several travel shows and reading numerous blogs about Lisbon I decided to try a few of my favourite recommendations during my stay.

Breakfast/Brunch

I love going out for breakfast/brunch but I didn’t find many standout places to have my first meal of the day in Lisbon. I think the breakfast revolution may not have hit Lisbon as hard as it hit London a few years ago but there’s nothing wrong with that. Lisbon is a city which focuses on delicious lunches and dinners so most days I had fruit and yoghurt from the local supermarket for breakfast. I did, however, have a few breakfast experiences which are worth noting if you are travelling to Lisbon.

Frutaria

This cute little café has very friendly staff, a menu filled with some healthy yet hearty breakfast items and is very close to Rossio Square. You can dine on acai bowls or avocado toast with eggs but my favourite dish here was the B.A.R.T (bacon, avocado, rocket and tomato) sandwich. It was made from fresh, soft, slightly toasted bread with thick slices of bacon, tomato and avocado and a liberal dollop of lime mayonnaise. All the ingredients worked extremely well together. It was so good that I got it on my way to the airport when I was travelling back to London so that I could eat it whilst I was waiting for my flight to depart. Their smoothies and juices are also incredibly fresh and flavourful and come in cute Mason jars.

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Heim Café

This brunch spot is in the Santos neighbourhood of Lisbon which seemed very sleepy and peaceful as I was walking through it to get to Heim Café. Heim Café serves a lot of dishes which you would expect to find at a brunch spot and the food was relatively affordable. I was able to get a smorgasbord of food (all the food pictured below) for around 13 euros which was really great value. I did eat this by myself as I was travelling solo but this breakfast could and probably should be shared between two people.

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Lunch/Dinner

I came to Lisbon believing that food was going to be very cheap. Based on my experience I would say that breakfast and fast food (i.e. burgers and hot dogs) are cheap but authentic Portuguese food, especially seafood, will resemble the sort of prices you see in London. Once again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing but just something to bear in mind when saving up for your trip.

Cervejaria Ramiro

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This restaurant is just a stone’s throw from A Vida Portuguesa and is probably one of the most famous Portuguese restaurants in Lisbon. Most of the Lisbon travel shows which I watched mentioned this very popular seafood place, and with good reason. This place serves an assortment of fresh and delicious seafood such as lobster, prawns, crab, sea urchins etc. It really is a seafood lover’s paradise – the walls are decorated with murals of seafood and the restaurant is adorned with tanks containing live lobsters and crabs. As this place is extremely popular make sure you dine early. There was plenty of space when I arrived at 12.30pm for lunch and it might also be easier to find a table if you go for an early dinner (from 5-6pm). Remember to bring your wallet as well as whilst the seafood is delicious it isn’t cheap.

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They brought this plate of hot buttered toast to my table after I ordered, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Giant tiger prawns – these were fresh, sweet and utterly delicious. I don’t think I had ever had prawns this tasty before coming to Ramiro.

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I ordered a prego roll to finish off my meal as is customary at Ramiro. This is essentially a steak sandwich – the juicy beef was topped with sautéed garlic and served between two soft slices of bread. They also bring you some mustard to eat with it and although I do like mustard I personally thought the roll tasted even better without it. In total I paid 24 euros (this included a bottle of water and a tip as my server was particularly helpful and attentive). It was totally worth it as the food was faultless.

Taberna da Rua das Flores

This restaurant in the Chiado district serves some interesting and flavourful dishes in an intimate and somewhat rustic setting. It gets busy at dinner time so try going for an early dinner or a late lunch to beat the queues. N.B. They don’t have a paper menu for food; all the food items which are available are read to you by a waiter from a blackboard and the menu changes regularly.

I had a veal dish with charred pineapple, black beans, some greens and a sort of grainy crumble on the side. Bar the strange crumble the dish was delectable; I would say that this was my second favourite meal in Lisbon after my feast at Ramiro.

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Bistrô Gato Pardo

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This restaurant was in the Graça/São Vicente neighbourhood of Lisbon. It was quaint, unassuming and small, however, it served some delicious food which was much needed after I spend an entire day walking around the Calouste Gulbenkian museum. I ordered a simple dish of mashed potatoes with lamb but there were other more adventurous items on the menu to choose from.

Pastéis de nata

Pastéis de Bélem

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If you tell anyone who has been to Lisbon that you are planning on visiting there is a good chance that they will tell you to try something called Pastéis de Nata (Portuguese custard tarts) at a place called Pastéis de Bélem. Whilst this is the birthplace of these delicious treats, it is by no means the best placed to get them in Lisbon in my opinion. I found the custard too eggy and stiff and the pastry a little burnt for my liking.

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Opinion on which place serves the best Pastéis de Nata in Lisbon is very divided. A lot of people who have informed me that their preferred tart option is Pastéis de Belem like the custard in them as it isn’t as sweet as the custard used at my preferred custard tart vendor, which I have highlighted below.

Manteigaria

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My preferred place to get these delectable treats was Manteigaria. They have a stall in Time Out Market as well as a standalone store in the Bairro Alto neighbourhood of Lisbon. These tarts had an incredibly smooth and silky custard, just the right level of sweetness and a perfectly buttery and flaky pastry base. The other thing about these tarts which gave them an edge over Pastéis de Bélem was that they were 1 euro each as compared with Pastéis de Bélem’s 2 euro charge for each of their tarts. These tarts were so moreish that I ate three in one sitting and seriously contemplated buying even more on that same day to have after my dinner. Just writing about them now is making me crave them.

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Some people will advise you to cover the custard tarts with cinnamon and icing sugar, but I preferred them without these extra ingredients. The tarts are tasty enough on their own.

Gelato

Santini

My favourite place in Lisbon for gelato was Santini. This is another enterprise which has a stall in Time Out Market as well as other standalone stores. You’ll find a Santini store in the Chiado neighbourhood as well as in Bélem close to the Jéronimos Monastery. I’ve been eating sorbet more and more these days as my body does not handle dairy like it used to and so when I went to Lisbon I only ate sorbet. Santini had the most amazing passion fruit and strawberry sorbet but they also had a wide range of other delicious dairy gelato flavours as well.

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Nannarella

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Another gelateria which I tried whilst in Lisbon was Nannarella. I ventured here as it was recommended by Phil Rosenthal in the Lisbon episode of his Netflix travel series “Somebody Feed Phil”. They had a nice selection of dairy gelato but I tried their mango, raspberry and lemon sorbet flavours. The lemon flavour was delicious but unfortunately, I was disappointed by the mango sorbet. It had a somewhat stringy and grainy texture which was off-putting. Also, I thought that the raspberry flavour was OK but nothing to write home about.

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That’s my round up of my favourite places to eat in Lisbon, let me know what your Lisbon food recommendations are!

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My day at the RA: The Royal Academy’s 250th Summer Exhibition

I spent some time at the Royal Academy to see the 250th Summer Exhibition which was curated by Grayson Perry

A lot of people who know me will tell you that I’m not a very spontaneous person. I would choose careful, methodical planning over making rash and random decisions any day of the week. I like analysing things and weighing up all my options because I like to mitigate the likelihood of being disappointed. I don’t do this all the time as that would be exhausting, but I do tend to do this when planning what I want to do at the weekend, holidays and where I want to eat.

One of the pitfalls of being overly analytical (apart from being incredibly boring) is that you might miss out on opportunities because you spend so much time weighing up all of your options and pondering whether or not you want to do something that before you know it the restaurant/exhibition/concert that you want to eat at/visit/attend has gone. I’m also a serial procrastinator which doesn’t help matters either. Having said that, however, I have been trying to be more spontaneous recently to ensure that I don’t miss out on so many opportunities.

Earlier this summer I read an interview with Grayson Perry about the Royal Academy’s 250th Summer Exhibition, which he was curating, in the ES Magazine and I thought it looked like an interesting thing to see but I never made a plan to actually go. Fast forward two or so months later and I see a sponsored post on my Instagram feed telling me that the exhibition was due to finish in a few days #serialprocrastinator. Instagram was clearly stalking my search history as the timing of this sponsored post was too eerie to have been a mere coincidence. When I saw the post, I decided that I wouldn’t let this exhibition be another one that slipped through my fingers so on the last Friday of the exhibition I decided to just book a ticket so that I could go straight after work.

Now many of you might not think that this is spontaneous but for me it was a big step in that direction. I’m still a long way away from waking up in the morning, packing up all my clothes, travelling to Heathrow Airport and booking a one-way flight to New York but this was impulsive enough for me to consider it as slightly spontaneous #babysteps.

The exhibition itself was huge and was contained within three different spaces in the RA. A lot of the art was very topical and somewhat satirical in nature, but most of it was cleverly constructed, incredibly innovative and intricately put together. I’m not an art connoisseur by any means but I appreciate art which is humorous, has a hidden message or looks as though it has been painstakingly put together over the course of several months or even years.

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This dog was one of the best things I saw at the exhibition. It was made from what looked like recycled jewellery such as old watch heads, necklaces and brooches.

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This was another one of my favourite pieces. From afar it looked like a painting but the horses and trees were 3D and looked extremely life-like up close.

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As well as the art on show I also loved the atmosphere at the RA. It was buzzing and really felt like a Friday night at the museum. The space was bustling full of families, couples and lone ranger art enthusiasts who were soaking in all the work on display. There was also a bar serving an assortment of wine and prosecco; I’d never seen an art gallery or museum serve alcohol before. I didn’t know if this was happening because of the significance of the exhibition or because it was a Friday, but I didn’t ask why, I just got stuck in and enjoyed myself in what felt like my new happy place.

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This was one of the most unusual, yet interesting and fun exhibitions that I have ever been to and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. Have you ever been to the RA?

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Shopping in Lisbon: A Vida Portuguesa

A spacious and aesthetically pleasing store in Lisbon where you can find gifts aplenty

I try not to go shopping when I’m on holiday. I despise clothes shopping when I’m abroad as the very thought of trying on clothes after a day spent walking (and sweating) around a hot city makes me shudder in horror. I also generally try to avoid buying other things like souvenirs because I am often flying short-haul to a European city and have stuffed my carry-on suitcase with so many clothes that I struggle to close it even when I am about to leave my house to go to the airport. I think this habit can be explained by my hypochondriac tendencies and perpetual need to have spare clothes just in case I get a stain on a piece of clothing, sweat profusely during the day and therefore need another outfit later in the day, or in case, through some unknown and unforeseen event, I tear a hole in a pair of jeans. I am a hypochondriac indeed.

There are, however, a few exceptions to my “no shopping rule whilst abroad” rule. If there is something I want to buy for myself abroad because it is cheaper or unavailable in the UK I will make a conscious effort to create space in my luggage for it. Additionally, I will consider shopping abroad when I want to buy a birthday or special occasion present for someone that’s a little more unique than what I might typically find in London. When I was in Lisbon I thought about how my niece’s third birthday was coming up, which in turn made me conjure up memories of a shop which I had seen in a YouTube video about Lisbon and which looked like the perfect place to find gifts. The shop in question is called A Vida Portuguesa.

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A Vida Portuguesa has a few locations in Lisbon. The original store in the Chiado neighbourhood is probably the most famous branch, however, the newer and much larger location on Largo do Intendente Pina Manique, which was conveniently only a six-minute walk from my Airbnb, has a much bigger selection of products and is even more aesthetically pleasing than the original (both inside and outside the store).

A Vida Portuguesa means “A Portuguese Life” and as the name might suggest the shop contains an array of items, both essential and extravagant, which one would find in a home. The shop is stocked with an array of toiletries, homeware, food, books, toys and quite possibly anything else that your heart desires. Shelves were stacked high with delicious smelling soaps, handcream and bodycream, tables were adorned with cutlery and crockery and larders were lined with olive oil, sardines, biscuits and the seemingly ubiquitous Portuguese cherry liquor Ginja.

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What makes this shop even more amazing is that its products are made in Portugal and many of the products available for purchase are still manufactured by family run businesses. The shop itself is stunning and almost looks like a villa which one might find in the Douro valley. Most of the shelves and tables were made of what I can only assume was fine Portuguese wood which had been varnished to perfection.

Another thing that I loved about this shop was that it was really quiet. This branch is in the Mouraria district of Lisbon which isn’t particularly touristy. With the exception of about seven people who wandered in and out of the store during my visit I had the entire place to myself. I loved being able to freely take as many photos as I wanted and take my time looking for gifts.

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Azulejos (tiles), ubiquitous in Portugal

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Clothes on the upper level on the shop

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A bit of old Hollywood glam in Lisbon

The products aren’t cheap, but neither are they extortionately expensive. I was eyeing up a few 50g soap bars but at eight euros each they were a little too rich for my blood. However, had I set more money aside for shopping for this trip I would have definitely purchased some for myself. Also, given that they are made in Portugal and not made en masse in a factory somewhere in the Far East I think the prices can be justified.

In the end I left the store longing for the verbena, tuberose and wild moss soaps which I thought smelled amazing but content with the biscuits I had bought for my work colleagues and the mini tambourine which I had purchased for my niece (I also bought her a dress from a market in London when I returned from my holiday in Lisbon; the dress had also been made by an independent retailer #supportSMEs).

If you are looking for well-made, authentic and typically Portuguese gifts or souvenirs then this is the place to get them from.

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